COUNCILLORS in Northwich have visited Cumbria to see how innovative flood defence designs can help to reduce the risk of flooding and safeguard local heritage.

The Environment Agency (EA) organised trip comes after Northwich secured £4.5million to build flood defences to help save more than 700 homes and businesses from the devastating damage of flood water.

Northwich town councillors Brian Jamieson and Derek Bowden joined Cheshire West and Chester Council’s (CWAC) Catherine Fox and the EA’s Dave Brown during the April 16 trip - which took in Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith.

The trip allowed councillors to see how the community’s connection with the Rivers Dane and Weaver can be maintained wherever possible, and showed examples of how this has been achieved in other schemes around the country.

In Keswick, glass panels have been incorporated into flood walls so that views of the river and surrounding mountains are maintained at key locations, while in Cockermouth, self-closing barriers have been installed to leave river views unblocked unless there is a flood.

Councillors also saw how a flood storage basin has been constructed in an industrial part of Penrith, reducing the need to build bigger structures in the town.

“The high quality of engineers, construction and materials used in COckermouth, Keswick and Penrith was very impressive,” said clr Jamieson.

“The residents and businesses in these traditional small market towns must be pleased and feel much safer now they are protected with new flood defences.

“Northwich Town Council is looking forward town working with the EA in the development of plans for the Northwich flood risk management scheme and this visit was a great start.”

Clr Bowden added: “It was good to see that the design of the Cumbrian flood defences were in sympathy with the local character and environment of the National Park.”

Details of Northwich’s defence scheme are yet to be confirmed but it is likely to involve raising the existing defence walls and constructing upstream flood storage systems.

Funding for the project – which is hoped to encourage future development in the town - has been secured from HM Treasury, as well as grants from the government and CWAC – who will contribute £500,000 towards the scheme.

EA flood risk manager Mark Garratt said: “We want any new structures, which could include flood walls, embankments or upstream flood storage to complement the local landscape and enhance the town’s connection with the river wherever possible, and need to balance these requirements with ensuring we reduce flood risk to as many homes and businesses as possible.”

Construction is programmed to start in December 2014.

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